WRC chief Tanak faces robust check on Rally Mexico gravel
The warmth, mud and power-sapping altitude of Rally Mexico present a troublesome problem for the WRC’s first pure gravel rally of 2023.
Again on the calendar for the primary time since 2020, the FIA World Rally Championship’s third spherical may see temperatures hitting 85 levels F — and significantly hotter within the vehicles — as M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tanak makes an attempt to extend his WRC factors lead, regardless of dealing with the worst of the street circumstances in Friday’s first full day of levels.
The Estonian grabbed the championship lead with victory on the ice and snow of Sweden final outing, however should pay his dues within the mountains round Leon when he opens the street in his hybrid Puma Rally1 on levels coated in dry and slippery gravel. These tracks grow to be cleaner and quicker with every automobile that passes because the unfastened filth is swept apart.
Tanak, a two-time Rally Mexico runner-up, shall be praying for rain to bind the unfastened gravel collectively, however his want will seemingly be in useless because the occasion is forecast to have sunny skies via to the end on Sunday afternoon.
“I’m unsure I’m that good a (rain) dancer to get the rain in a spot the place it virtually by no means rains!” joked the 2019 WRC champ, who’s joined by manufacturing unit teammate Pierre-Louis Loubet and privateer Jourdan Serderidis in a three-car M-Sport assault.
This shall be solely Tanak’s third WRC begin since becoming a member of M-Sport Ford from Hyundai this season, and regardless of hoping for a robust end result, he is aware of Mexico shall be a studying curve.
“Throughout testing it was my very first time on gravel within the Puma Rally1 and it was essential to find as a lot as attainable,” he stated. “The crew is working onerous to maintain bettering, however to essentially perceive the place we are actually, we have to do a gravel rally first.”
Second and third within the factors, and therefore beginning second and third on the street behind Tanak, Toyota’s reigning WRC champ Kalle Rovanpera and Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville are additionally more likely to wrestle on Friday. However one driver who’s able to take benefit is Rovanpera’s teammate Sebastien Ogier, a six-time Mexico winner who begins fifth in his GR Yaris Rally1.
Eight-time WRC champ Ogier has chosen a part-time program for the Japanese marque and returns to motion for the primary time since his season-opening Monte Carlo Rally win in January.
“Once I knew that Mexico was coming again, I needed to mark it in my calendar as an occasion that might be good to do once more,” stated the Frenchman. “It’s the place the whole lot began for me within the WRC, because it’s really the place I made my debut in 2008.”
Ogier’s had this one marked on his calendar for some time…which could possibly be unhealthy information for everybody else. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT picture
Elfyn Evans, fourth within the WRC standings, and Takamoto Katsuta full Toyota Gazoo Racing’s four-car fleet — though Katsuta gained’t rating producers’ championship factors with Ogier in attendance this week.
Dani Sordo joins Neuville and Esapekka Lappi in a three-strong Hyundai i20 N lineup and would be the final of the frontrunners onto the street. The Spaniard shall be eager to profit from the additional grip to place himself in a robust place for the final two legs, when rivals begin in reverse order of classification.
“If we get it proper, we imagine we may be within the battle for victory, however we need to be on the rostrum at least,” stated Sordo.
Lappi begins sixth on the street in Friday’s first leg, and he can’t be dominated out for a robust end result after matching fellow Finn Rovanpera’s time in Thursday morning’s pre-rally Shakedown stage. Ogier, Sordo and Evans accomplished the highest 5 on a 3.42-mile check stage that every driver is allowed to finish a number of occasions.
The rally route climbs to virtually 9,000 toes above sea stage, the place engines historically wrestle to breathe within the thinner air and lose round 20 p.c of their energy. Nonetheless, the headlining Rally1 vehicles’ hybrid specification features a battery-powered increase that’s much less impacted by the thinner air, which may make this the quickest ever Rally Mexico.
The rally begins tonight (Thursday) with two quick avenue levels via Guanajuato’s former mining tunnels. Three extra days of motion comply with within the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains, earlier than Sunday afternoon’s end in Leon after 23 levels overlaying a complete of 198.98 aggressive miles.
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